Setting Aside the Pesticides | Seventh Generation
Skip to Content
  • Pin It

Setting Aside the Pesticides

Author: the Inkslinger

Nature is like a good garlic aioli. It's a beautiful, wonderful thing. But that doesn't mean we want it everywhere and on everything. Sometimes we need to keep the wilderness at arm's length and hang a bit of civility on what is usually a rather insistent web of life. The question is how to proceed without tearing its strands to pieces.


I'm continually amazed by nature's stubborn refusal to play nice and stay politely out of the few places where I don't want it. But it seems there are always spiders in the corners and weeds in the garden. I've caught snakes in the kitchen and even pulled creeping vines off our foundation walls—in the basement.


So I understand the urge for pesticides. They're an easy route to creating an urbane oasis from unruly forest, field, and bramble. And I'd spray all day if that was all they did. But pesticides don't just zap their targets -- and they don't stop killing once they do. They don't even stay where we put them. Just ask the DuPont Company, which recently learned these lessons the hard way.


It introduced an herbicide called Imprelis in late 2010. What was supposed to be a relatively benign weed killer turned out to be a bit much for nearby trees. Now DuPont finds itself in the tree replacement business, and the product itself has been banned.


Call it a cautionary tale about the law of unintended consequences when the consequences are chemical in origin. But that leaves pesky nature still meddling in our affairs. So what can we do instead?


First, choose to be tolerant. A few dandelions on the lawn or some spider webs under the eaves aren't going to hurt anyone. We simply don't need perfect yards or insect-less homes. Trying to achieve such things is ultimately a losing battle, and any temporary victories we might achieve are hardly worth pesticides' dangerously toxic costs.


Second, know what you're up against. Is that crabgrass by the patio or something else? Are those carpenter ants on the counter or sugar ants? Every pest is different and so are the pesticide-free methods used to boot them.


Once you know what you've got, the rest is relatively straightforward. Here's a brief guide to locating the specific pesticide-free know-how you'll need:


Try 'em and you'll see: We just need a spritz or two of common sense and a squirt of the Earth's own remedies to stop whatever's bugging us.



amandel2000 picture
I use Naturally Green Products' No More Bugs! to get rid of all kinds of insects (including bed bugs) and it doesn't bother my cat at all. It is safe to use around pets, children and adults. The active ingredient is cedar oil.
Weatherlight picture
I like the links that contain effective, non-lethal prevention and solutions. Here's my quick summary of what I've learned over the years: Pull out weeds. Use groundcover plants appropriate for your region (I personally like clover and love runnering strawberries) instead of turf grass. Use mulch as needed. Done with unwanted plants...until your neighbor's weeds come to your yard, but that's another story. Clean up crumbs and food spills. Cover kitchen garbage. Seal cracks around doors and in walls. Don't create wildlife habitat that screams (in their language) "Luxury condos with all you can eat buffet every day, for free! Convenient location, a few inches walk from the outdoors!" and then be surprised when some say "Wow thanks, sounds awesome, I'll move in!" If you've been slacking and they're starting to come in, trap them and put them back outside (unattended traps for rodents can let them panic and die before you come along, so check them often), put repellents at their entrance until you can seal it. Done with unwanted animals around the house. Taking care of weeds, mulching, etc should keep outdoor "pests" down. Plan vegetable locations (companion crops for deterring wildlife and all that) before planting, and care for them properly. If you're ok with handling mulch/path material that's not very risky once spread on the ground outside, try pine chips--lots of animals (including myself) hate the phenols. Get rid of the standing water in the yard and in the gutter. Spray with Garlic Barrier or similar repellent if needed. Done with unwanted animals in the garden. Oh, if you have persistent outdoor/stray/feral cats that like to visit and use your garden as a litterbox, or deer that humans have trained to come over, you might want cat/deer-proof fencing. Same with neighborhood kids who think it's fun to run over your crops or pull them up. That takes care of about 99% of these types of problems.